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Most checks clear pretty quickly, often the day after you deposit them. However, there are factors that may delay that timeline by a few days, like which day you make the deposit and the status of the check writer’s bank account.
Let’s take a look at how long it takes for a check to clear and the factors involved in that process. We’ll also dive into the possibility of extended holds on checks, and what that means.
In general, you can expect most checks to clear the day after you deposit them, as long as you make the deposit on a business day and during bank business hours. So if you make a deposit at 1:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, for example, the check should clear by Wednesday.
If you deposit a check on a Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday, the bank will treat the deposit as though it were made on a Monday, the first business day of the week; in that case, the check will usually clear on a Tuesday.
From the time you deposit a check to the time it clears, the check cycles through the bank payment process to certify the payment:
Again, this example timeline assumes that you made the deposit on a business day. There are also a few situations that could result in a hold being placed on your check, which we discuss in more detail below.
A check hold is the maximum number of days that a financial institution can hold your funds from a deposited check before clearing it. Per the Federal Reserve’s Regulation CC, banks can hold checks for the following amounts of time:
Note that there is some leeway in these longer wait times, as the first $200 of a deposit that is not already subject to next-day availability must be made available by the first business day after the day of deposit, as set by the Expedited Funds Availability Act.
Regulation CC also allows institutions to delay the availability of certain funds for a “reasonable period of time,” generally defined as one additional business day, although your institution may take longer. This extension applies to deposits greater than $5,000, redeposited checks and instances when there is reasonable cause to doubt the collectibility of a check (like when a check is post-dated, dated more than six months earlier or the paying institution has said it will not honor the check).
Check with your financial institution to learn more about its check-clearing policies. You also may find this information on your bank’s website or in your bank account agreement.
Your check could take longer than one business day to clear for a number of reasons:
When you deposit a check at a bank, either with a bank teller or at an ATM, you’ll get a receipt that states when the funds will be available. If the check has not cleared by the date specified, you may contact the bank to find out why.
If the check does not clear, that means it has bounced. A check can bounce even after funds are made available to you. It’s important to not spend those funds until you’re sure the check has cleared; otherwise, you could be on the hook for that spent money and any bounced check fees.